« PreviousContinue »
most perfect among beings slips through these categories. The man who is perfectly well is neither sanguineous — [to use the old medical term] nor bilious nor ner
A normal republic contains opposing parties and points of view, but it contains them, as it were, in a state of chemical combination. All the colours are contained in a ray of light, while red alone does not contain a sixth part of the perfect ray.
8th July 1880. — It is thirty years since I read Waagen's book on Museums, which
is now reading. It was in 1842 that I was wild for pictures; in 1845 that I was studying Krause's philosophy; in 1850 that I became professor of æsthetics.
may be the same age as I am ; it is none the less true that when a articular stage has become to me a matter of history, he is just arriving at it. This impression of distance and remoteness is a strange one. I begin to realise that my memory is a great catacomb, and that below my actual standing-ground there is layer after layer of historical ashes.
Is the life of mind something like that of great trees of immemorial growth? Is the living 'ayer of consciousness superimposed upon hundreds of dead layers ? Dead ? No doubt this is too much to say, but still, when memory is slack the past becomes almost as though it had never been. To remember that we did know once is not a sign of possession but a sign of loss; it is like the number of an engraving which is no longer on its nail, the title of a volume no longer to be found on its shelf. My mind is the empty frame of a thousand vanished images. Sharpened by incessant training, it is all culture, but it has retained hardly anything in its meshes. It is without matter, and is only form. It no longer has knowledge; it has become method. It is etherealised, algebraicised. Life has treated it as death treats other minds ; it has already prepared it for a further metamorphosis. Since the age of sixteen onwards I have been able to look at things with the eyes of a blind man recently operated upon
- that is to say, I have been able to suppress in myself the results of the long education of sight, and to abolish distances; and now I find myself regarding existence as though from beyond the tomb, from another world ; all is strange to me; I am, as it were, outside my own body and individuality ; I am depersonalised, detached, cut adrift. Is this madness ? No. Madness means the impossibility of recovering one's normal balance after the mind has thus played truant among alien forms of being,' and followed Dante to invisible worlds. Madness ineans incapacity for self-judgment and self-control. Whereas it seems to me that my mental transformations are but philosophical experiences. I am tied to none. I am but making psychological investigations. At the same time I do not hide from myself that such experiences weaken the hold of common sense, because they act as solvents of all personal interests and prej. udices. I can only defend myself against them by returning to the common life of men, and by bracing and fortifying the will.
14th July 1880. - What is the book which, of all Genevese literature, I would soonest have written ? Perhaps that of Madame Necker de Saussure, or Madame de Staël's L'Allemagne. To a Genevese, moral philosophy is still the most congenial and remunerative of studies. Intellectual seriousness is what suits us least ill. History, politics, economical science, education, practical philosophy — these are our subjects. We have everything to lose in the
attempt to make ourselves mere Frenchified copies of the Parisians : by so doing we are merely carrying water to the Seine. Independent criticism is perhaps easier at Geneva than at Paris, and Geneva ought to remain faithful to her own special line, which, as compared with that of France, is one of greater freedom from the tyranny of taste and fashion on the one hand, and the tyranny of ruling opinion on the other - of Catholicism or Jacobinism. Geneva should be to La Grande Nation what Diogenes was to Alexander; her rôle is to represent the independent thought and the free speech which is not dazzled by prestige, and does not blink the truth. It is true that the rôle is an ungrateful one, that it lends itself to sarcasm and misrepresentation - but what matter?
28th July 1880. – This afternoon I have had a walk in the sunshine, and have just come back rejoicing in a renewed communion with nature. The waters of the Rhone and the Arve, the murmur of the river, the austerity of its banks, the brilliancy of the foliage, the play of the leaves, the splendour of the July sunlight, the rich fertility of the fields, the lucidity of the distant mountains, the whiteness of the glaciers under the
azure serenity of the sky, the sparkle and foam of the mingling rivers, the leafy masses of the La Bâtie woods - all and everything delighted me. It seemed to me as though the years of strength had come back to me. I was overwhelmed with sensations. I was surprised and grateful. The universal life carried me on its breast; the summer's caress went to my heart. Once more my eyes beheld the vast horizons, the soaring peaks, the blue lakes, the winding valleys, and all the free outlets of old days. And yet there was no painful sense of longing. The scene left upon me an indefinable impression, which was neither hope, nor desire, nor regret, but rather a sense of emotion, of passionate impulse, mingled with admiration and anxiety. I am conscious at once of joy and of want; beyond what I possess I see the impossible and the unattainable; I gauge my own wealth and poverty : in a word, I am and I am not, - my inner state is one of contradiction, because it is one of transition. The ambiguity of it is characteristic of human nature, which is ambiguous, because it is flesh becoming spirit, space changing into thought, the Finite looking dimly out upon the Infinite, intelligence working its way through love and pain.